Imagine learning that you would need to be away from your home, your family, and your community for at least 100 days in unfamiliar surroundings while navigating a life-changing medical diagnosis. For Miriam Weaver, who came to Cleveland with her husband Ron in need of a bone marrow transplant, she knew that she would have to take those 100 days one at a time to get through them.
“If you look too far ahead its mind boggling,” she says. “It’ll get you down in a hurry.”
For the first few visits when Miriam had appointments at the hospital, they were only in town for a night or two. But when they came back for Miriam’s transplant, Ron spent the next four weeks at a hotel. And while he was glad to be staying close to the hospital, he never felt like he could get “settled in” there.
“You’re either sitting on a bed or you’re sitting in a chair, trying to relax,” Ron explains. “For a few days its ok, but for a couple of months it’s just not ideal. That’s why you need places like Transplant House.”
“We looked at other places,” Miriam adds, “but this place really had an advantage: you have your own little house.”
When they first toured Transplant House, they were struck by how much the apartments looked like a home rather than overnight lodging. The rooms have their own kitchens and living spaces, are thoughtfully decorated, and stocked with essentials. As Ron says, “You just need to bring your own food. Everything you need to prepare it is here. We were amazed that everything you need is here waiting for you.”
The feeling of having your own home in a new and unfamiliar city helped to carry the Weavers through the challenges of transplant. Cleveland was an adjustment from their daily life back home in Millersburg, Ohio – “We’re used to the country,” says Ron – where they are close to their family and Church community. Now they were far away from both. Miriam and Ron especially missed their four children, two in their teens and the youngest only five years old. And they were also far from Miriam’s mother who suffered a stroke last year. For two people whose family and community are central to their daily lives, staying in a hotel in unfamiliar surroundings meant that they felt those absences sharply.
“You’re up here in the big city,” Miriam explains, “far from home and sometimes you feel like you’re alone. But here at Transplant House we get reminded that we’re not because there’s a community here.”
That community starts with the many opportunities the Weavers had to talk with other caregivers and patients who are making a similar journey. At Transplant House those meetings happen by design and organically. Whether it’s around the table at a community dinner, on a Zoom call with a patient support group, or bumping into other guests around campus, the Weavers have grown to value the chances staying at Transplant House provides for them to meet others on the transplant journey. The opportunities to hear the stories of other guests – and the strength it gave them – made them excited to share their own story.
“If we can be a help to someone else,” Ron says, “we’d like to be, because people have helped us so much here.”
They’ve appreciated the care shown to them by the staff as well.
“The staff here is wonderful,” Ron says, “You can tell they care. They aren’t just putting a day of work in and its more than just showing up to them. They do all they can to help.”
The adjustment to their new surroundings in Cleveland has been a successful one. It took a little getting used to, but Ron and Miriam have found ways to carve out quiet time at Transplant House. They’ve grown to love spending mornings on their apartment’s porch having coffee and getting some fresh air. In the evenings they take walks around the block and make daily visits to a favorite spot next to a nearby University Hospitals research building that has a little fountain and some benches to sit on. And their apartment has quickly become a place of comfort and calm – somewhere that they could call their own.
“You can make your own meals. You can rest whenever you want on the couch. It’s just so nice,” Miriam says. “It feels safe here.”
They’ve also enjoyed exploring the area around the House. Mitchell’s Ice Cream is a particular favorite, as is the Lakefront Nature Preserve. When the Weavers’ children visited, they had a picnic at the park with pizza and visited the playground in nearby Little Italy.
“They always like coming up here,” Miriam shares. “It’s kind of an adventure – a different place, something new.”
Miriam and Ron felt strengthened by visits from their family. They’ve had visitors from their church and friends from the community in Millersburg too. These visits were “highlights” for them both, moments that gave them strength to keep moving forward on the transplant journey. Visits like these were much more difficult to accommodate when living in a hotel room. According to Ron, “Transplant House made it possible.”
On September 19 after 107 nights at Transplant House, Miriam, Ron, and their youngest son celebrated a major milestone on Miriam’s journey by ringing the bell on Transplant House’s front porch. The Weavers were heading home, but they were grateful for their home-away-from-home of the previous three and a half months.
“We felt so at home, so comfortable, and cared for here,” Miriam says.